Tomorrow we are attempting to leave Vietnam and enter Laos. Attempting means if we make it to the border (a long uphill slog) and we make it over the border (to enter Laos via land is a bureaucratic nightmare). But our legs are rested, and we are well prepared, so everything should be fine.
Currently we have a day off from bike riding and are in Dien Bien Phu, a lively border town, with not many tourist attractions but a serious history. It was here that Ho Chi Minh defeated the French in the first Indochina war in the 1950th. In any case, there is actually something to say for rest days in places that have not much attractions. One does not feel compelled to run around and look at stuff and be more exhausted in the evening than before the rest day. And it has all we need. A decent hotel that is comfortable and clean, good food, nice cafes to hang out and play cards and colourful markets where Ellie can run around for hours thinking of the cool things to buy, if we would not have to carry them.
We all needed this day, after seven days riding in the mountains. It was physically quite challenging, as of the 500km or so, we hardly did 20km flat. The every so perfect tarmac has changed as well, and we had some hard and steep sections of rough gravel to conquer. But it was also mentally a bit tough, as we never really knew if we find a guesthouse in the evening and, as English is not spoken at all, never were able to order food. So, we always just went into a restaurant, sat down and made the hand to mouth gesture and waited what was being served. Sometimes it was an excellent surprise, sometimes a serious challenge to eat. But we always can count on the most tasty pineapples, mangos, oranges and bananas, that are on offer at every corner.
But these are all just petty little disruptions from the absolute joy we have while riding through beautiful landscapes with some of the friendliest people on earth. I feel so privileged. We also have a new word: FRI = Fake Rain Incident. An FRI is, when a decision is made, based on fake or misleading information. The story is, we spent Friday night in a guest house, which turned out to be the party place of town. The next day we had the alternative to do a long day, but that would mean a very early start or a relaxed day with a late start. Most people will know that I have some real issues with noise, so I put headphones in, and listened to “night rain” on Spotify, that plays rain noise in different varieties. I woke up in the morning, thinking it is raining cats and dogs outside, so decided to keep sleeping….. Obviously I still had the headphones in the ear and the sky was as blue as Max’s eyes.
Max keeps on being a true attraction here and sometimes it is a bit hard to stop. We, for example, wanted to have a look at a monument, but a tour bus arrives and 50 or so colourful women all needed to take a photo with Max.